What’s On Your Mind?: Transformation

#6

The mind of the believer is being transformed into Christlikeness.

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:2

The Great Therefore

            The human mind is not stable.  Paul shows us just how malleable our minds are: conformable, transformable, renewable. The bad news about this is that our minds change.  We can’t count on a changeable mind.  What is thought true today, may be revealed flawed by new knowledge tomorrow.  We discussed this in a previous post.  

         The good news is that our minds CAN change! When we meet with new knowledge, we learn. Our minds grow, hopefully, toward truth if we don’t short-circuit the process by refusing to re-assess our human understanding according to an unchanging standard. 

         As we have seen in our previous posts, the reality of Christ changes everything. The Son of God entered our world and re-instated the standard of what is true outside of our changeable understanding. Because of the reality of Jesus, I am no longer a victim of my changeable mind. I can learn truth. 

            Jesus revealed Truth not just by his words, but by his righteousness. He made truth and righteousness accessible, and now calls me to follow him in it. His once-for-all sacrifice for my human deficiency became my bridge to new life.

            Because of the power of the Resurrection, I can battle successfully against the force of evil in this world and know peace with God. I have a future and a hope. This surely is good news!

            As believers in Christ, we’re not what we once were! Something has happened to our minds that is good and miraculous. We’re no longer slaves to sin, but we are willing, thankful, and obedient slaves to God. We struggle, but we are not defeated! We fail but we rise again. We feel the strain, but we know we are loved and kept forever by our loving Savior. We can’t move forward until we truly celebrate this fact!

            That is why the first verse of chapter 12 in Paul’s letter to the Romans begins “Therefore…” All that follows after is based on the premises of the gospel. I would urge anyone not familiar with the book of Romans to read and consider well the first eleven chapters.

Moving Forward

            While “Therefore” points us backward to our foundations, it also pulls us onward to a summary truth that requires our attention. Our Savior is also our Lord:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, on account of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (Romans 12:1).

            This is a call to action on my part. I am to do something in light of the fact of my salvation. “Because of God’s mercy, I urge you to offer your lives as holy, living sacrifices to God. This is how you worship Him.” Before I can do this, I need to understand it. What does Paul mean by “living sacrifices”?

            The next verse defines what is meant by describing it.

Do not be conformed to this world,…” (v2a)

            Paul begins with a negative. The word for “conformed” here is the Greek syschematizesthe, or with the “same pattern” (syn + schema) or worldview. Do not live according to the same worldview that this fallen world lives by. A Christ-follower has a different thinking pattern than those who have no hope.

            The pattern for my new worldview is Christ. When Christ came to this earth, he confronted the oppressive worldviews of selfishness, greed, fear, victimization, oppression, arrogance, exclusiveness and prejudice, suspicion, and lust (to name only a few) with universal, unchanging truth. His very presence caused turmoil as the Light of Truth exposed falsehood.

            I don’t know about you, but my sinful nature doesn’t like to be wrong. No human likes that.  He embodied and embedded holiness into a very unholy world. Christ did not conform to this world, but was obedient to the Father at full cost of the truth.

            I, however, am an assimilator. Who wants to stick out? Even though I am coming to discern truth from error, I don’t effectually challenge the things that are wrong in my world, but rather meld politely back into the landscape. I rightfully want to be cautious and not act in my own limited understanding or power. I am aware that I am human. I would rather stay where it is safe than venture out in faith where my own understanding runs out. But that is when Christ’s own power must be called forth to supply my deficiency.  Christ is Truth, not me.  If I am focus on myself, I withdraw; but if I’m focused on Christ, I am transformed and renewed along with my fellowman. 

The Power of Transformation

            Followers of Christ are called to supercede this temporal, faulty worldview by offering ourselves as His Talmidim. We are dependent disciples, disciplined to the standard set before us by our Rabbi and Master. We are not only called out of pattern with the world, we are called to action against it. As Jesus, so His disciples.

“…but be transformed…” (v.2).

            This command to be “transformed” (Gk. metamorphousthe) means to be changed from a former state to a new state, being re-shaped across time. It is important to understand that the command is not to transform, but to be transformed! Transformation is the operation of Christ on our lives as we obey Him. He transforms us! Transformation has two components: change and time.

            Change. We do not have to think the way we used to when we were without hope. In fact, we can’t. Truth and hope has come! We are reconciled. So, what changes have been made in my life since Christ stepped in to upend my presuppositions? How did he re-arrange the furniture of my heart and mind? How has that come across to others by new patterns of thought: worldview, values, behavior? These are questions I need to ask myself every day.

         If there is no change, then I need to ask why not? What am I still holding on to that is flawed? For most of us there is an aspect of the “fear of man” rather than the fear of God.  We idolize man:  “What will they think?”

            It was said that in Oswald Chamber’s relatively brief life, he was known to be a pleasant, happy person, making people around him feel comfortable and loved. However, anyone who has read the writings of Oswald Chambers will see that his holy aim in life was relentless and unmistakable. The life he led was focused on that aim. His writings have encouraged millions in the believer’s life, not because he tickles our ears, but because he challenges our comfort with the purifying fire of God’s truth and example.

            Jesus’ own presence polarized the people into two camps: those who felt his compassion and longed to be near him, and those who felt threatened by his righteous judgments. We can expect no less. My life must exhibit the holiness of God without needlessly alienating those around me, yet with my allegience firmly rooted in Christ, rather than in man’s approval.

            My goal, however, is not to draw all people to myself so that I am lifted up and accepted, but to draw all people to look to Christ who took on my shame in order to bring us the highest honor of all. My goal is to lift Him up so that He is accepted by all and that all will find truth and eternal life. Sometimes that means that Christ’s holiness in me will separate me from others. I will have to move on to think and do what is right with or without anyone following or walking with me. Am I prepared for that? Today? If you’ve ever experienced it, you will know why this is an issue.

            Time.  I’ve seen visibly darkened, cloak-and-dagger individuals become open, happy, “cleaned-up” and socially pleasant individuals because Christ took away their need to hide and mourn. He gave them a reason and motivation to care. Yet, even for these individuals, the ongoing struggle against inner sin takes time to deepen in strength and power. Being shaped is a process that is continually happening, or should be if we truly believe Christ. We don’t expect others to be instantly perfect when they come to the Truth of Christ, therefore we must accept this process in ourselves. 

            God never promised that the way of our Master would be easy. In fact, He promised that we would suffer both in the internal struggle against sin (because now we DO struggle against it!) and the outward struggle against evil in this world.  It is embarrassing to admit, much less exhibit, weakness–but it is at least honest.

            That is why it is called a “sacrifice” to offer up ourselves to Christ. We are, like our Lamb of God, sacrifices unto the Lord for the sake of others. To be transformed is past tense, but the manner in which we are transformed is in the progressive sense, which gives us hope. Hurdling our failures, we are becoming like Christ. We will, with Him, finish the race in victory (James 1:12; Matthew 24:13).

The Restoration Process

“…by the renewing of your mind.” (v2)

            We are given the mechanism for ongoing change–a first step. The word used for “renewing” is the same word for “renovate” (re + nova, “to make new again”). I like that word, being a person who loves to restore wood furniture. There is an illustrative process in restoring furniture.

            It is a grueling, painstaking experience to sand off the old layers of (often toxic) paint and faulty finishes to get to the true but hidden wood beneath. The old wood is scarred and changed by its life experience. It will never be the same. But fresh layers of stain and sanding and finish and sanding, coat after coat, restores a new brilliance. The scars take on a warmth and glow that is never present in brand new furniture. It has history….story. There is not another like it now.

            This is the process of our transformation. Our mind is getting a make-over. What once was considered unusable “junk” is being restored to its full value and usefulness. My thinking is increasingly rightly-aligned with truth; I am becoming wise. I am becoming more and more valuable! I am becoming more and more useful in the Lord’s eyes. You are being restored, too!

            Reading and applying the Word of God sands us down, correcting us by removing all that is not true. Only then can it perfect us to new beauty. Our obedience puts the smooth polish on, attracting a watching world. This visible renovation is a dynamic force in our family, our communities, our churches, our places of work, our nations, and our world. It is not something that just “happens”, it is something that we intend to happen; we invite it to happen. We make ourselves available to God, then He enables us to follow through.

The Necessity of Grace

            Notice how much Paul speaks of grace. Verse 3 drinks in this “grace” terminology:

Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but think of yourself with sober judgment, according to the measure of faith God has given you…“.

            All of this talk of not being conformed to this world’s ways, but being transformed by the renewing of our minds has an important context. Do you see the word “think”? That word is the Greek hyperphroneo (hyper = “beyond” + phroneo = “personal perspective regulating behavior”). If I think “beyond” what is true about me, my behavior follows and I become arrogant in one of two ways: I can assess myself as lower than others (wrong!) or higher than others (wrong!).

             God has assessed us as valued, loved, supported. We have meaning to our lives; we have a future and a hope that is sure, certain and happy. And yet we are still in the making; as Paul said, “I have not yet arrived.” What is true of me now, I must also hold to be true for ALL others. Each human life has value, meaning and purpose before God, even as he or she expresses their human frailty. It is this attitude and purpose that forms the context of our transformation process. Where once I was bound to be self-absorbed with my failures or successes, I am now being changed into an emissary of God’s grace to all others because of the grace He has given me.

            I see myself “as is”. He sees what I am becoming. I see others “as is”; He sees them with a future and a hope. If I am not allowing Christ to transform me in context with His grace, I will pass my false perception onto others, either by overvaluing them or by undervaluing them. My mind is to be renewed by truth and grace. For within the phrase “as a man thinketh, so is he” is implied “as a man thinketh, so he treats others“. W

            Lord Jesus, I am ashamed to see how I have completely acculturated into the patterns of this world and sanctioned things you abhor and condemned things that I am myself guilty of. Even against my desires. I am inconsistent and hold competing beliefs without realizing it. I am challenged to realize that my inaction to right wrongs is just as bad as outward prejudice. I do not yet have your holy zeal. I am in need of being transformed. Work in my heart and mind to make me so humble so that I inconvenience myself to serve every soul in kindness and grace as you do. Develop my heart and mind to be so bold that I care more for the Father’s glory and His defeat over the evil in this world than I do the comforts of this world. Draw me to integrity. In the Blessed Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, our Model and our Power, Amen.

© April 2019 by ReadPsalm119.com

Footnotes:

[1] Talmid (Talmidim, plural) is the Hebrew idea we translate as “disciple”. It means something more than just a student. In the world during the time of the scriptures, a Rabbi (master teacher) would seek those who would not only study under him but so match their life to his model and teaching that they would become “him”. When he died, his teaching would continue through the life and teaching of those followers. We use the word “disciple” with the word “discipline” inherent in it, meaning basically “held strictly to a standard”. Talmidim gave up their former lives to become “little Rabbis”. This is powerful. The Rabbi gave them His authority. This is why the authorities in Rome would come looking for the Talmidim when the Rabbi died, to snuff out his teaching lest it continue and even multiply! Am I that dedicated that I am one of the Talmidim of Christ, or am I a mere spectator, or “hanger-on” in the crowd, looking for my next meal or a healing from pain, or protection from the powers in this world?

[2] Looking at the Greek terms provides no real new understanding of the text. The text speaks pretty accurately in its translation. But I have found that looking at the etymology of a word freshens its meaning to my mind by giving me mental visual representations. This is especially true of verses that, as a believer, I have heard so often that it loses its penetrating value. I nod my head and yet its point has become dulled (or rather my skull has become hardened!). The value in this “parsing out” of scripture is that maybe we nab a bad fish that slipped through the net without our realizing it. Maybe we needed to think about these things again today, where yesterday we were humming along nicely. Maybe, we will need it refreshed in our minds for we will need it tomorrow. Anyway, I hope that this little study encourages and challenges you as it has done for me.


FURTHER RESOURCES

What if I were in the Garden?  

 What if I were in the Garden the night my Lord was betrayed?
What if I were in the Garden the night my Lord was taken away?
Would I have run?
Would I have fled in fright?
My mind deceives me, oh, I have such need!
 
What if I were in the courtyard the night he was beaten and tried?
And what if I were by the fireside the night my Lord was denied?
Would I have claimed His name?
Would I have lied in shame?
My mind deceives me, oh, I have such need!
 
Would I have kissed His cheek? Would I have been so weak?
Oh, but for the grace of the Lord,
I would run, I would hide!
Three times I would lie, 
But, oh the joy to hear His gentle voice...
 
What if I were on the hillside when My Lord died that day?
What if I were standing in that crowd when My Lord was hung there in shame
Would I have said, "Save yourself!  Come on, you saved everyone else!"
My mind deceives me, oh, I have such need!
 
Would I have kissed His cheek? Would I have been so weak?
Oh, but for the grace of the Lord!
Could it be? Could he mean to love one such as me
And know the joy to hear his gentle voice? 
 
And what if I were in the Garden the morning that stone was rolled away?
And what if I were in the Garden the morning He rose from the grave?
Would I have known His voice?
Would I have cried for joy?
My mind deceives me, oh, I have such need!
 
Would I have kissed his cheek? Would I have been so weak?
Oh, but for the grace of the Lord!
Could it be? Could he mean to love one such as me 
And know the joy to hear his gentle voice?
 
What if I were in the Garden?
 
by Nathan Clark George,on Rise in the Darkness; [4:14 min.]
audio available at www.bandcamp.com (the link above) or at YouTube.

Note: If you have never heard of Nathan Clark George, please do check out all his albums (which I heartily endorse). He is an extremely talented musician of the highest quality with original lyrics and all is dedicated not to pop Christian culture or marketing, but to quality music for the Church (in the churches). I am continually blessed and challenged by Nathan’s music, both lyric, composition and instrumentation (mandolins, fiddle, guitar, good stuff!).

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